‘Nikita’s Shane West Talks Michael’s Mysterious Past

by | September 16, 2010 at 11:18 AM | Interviews, Nikita

Shane West on Nikita (The CW)

Shane West on Nikita (The CW)

Nikita‘ is the show that breaks the CW formula.  An update of the 1990s drama about a woman forced to work for a secret government agency, this is a sexy action drama that is 180 degrees from the network’s usual teen sagas.  In this version, Nikita has gone rogue and is working to bring down the shadowy Division.  Shane West, best known for his roles on ‘ER‘ and ‘Once & Again,‘  plays Michael, Nikita’s former lover and Division’s second in command. West discussed the nature of Division, Michael’s mysterious past and his intense relationship with Nikita.

What is Division?
Division, we’re supposed to think, whether it’s true or not, is that it’s on par with if not more powerful than the CIA.  It’s a part of the government, but kind of not, and it seems to be able to get away with everything it wants to do.  It’s because Percy (Xander Berkeley), who runs it, has these black boxes all over the world, and has information on every government all over the world that could bring them down and cause mass destruction. So because of that Division is allowed to get away with what they want.

Where does Michael fit into the organization?
Michael, second in command at Division, has this sense of loyalty to them because Percy has in some sense of the word saved his life.  Even though he does not believe in everything that Division does, he feels that he cannot really rebel yet because he’s still lost in his own mind, in his own world of what has happened to his family, what has happened to his past.  And now what has happened to Nikita, probably the only other woman he ever loved.

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How did Michael end up working for Division?
The best way to put it, he was a soldier in the past and a good one.  Percy recruited him once a tragedy happened in Michael’s life, which brought him into a series of dire straits. Percy gave him back a life by allowing him to be a part of Division.

In the original series, Michael and Nikita had a truly epic romance.  Will that be a part of this series, even though in this version they are on opposite sides?
Of course.  Here’s the thing: it’s not hard to bring Michael and Nikita together.  It’s hard to drag them apart.  In the original it wasn’t hard to bring them together at all because they were both at Division.  With this reboot, she’s not a part of Division anymore.  In our version, something happened with them physically and emotionally that was not spread around Division that Percy may have known about but pretended to not know about.  I think it was something more secretive.  We’re assuming that Michael might have let her go for [her] benefit and also when she went on a mission and found a civilian that she fell in love with afterward.  The plan now is to find out if Michael was a part of this civilian’s death because of jealousy or was he aware of it but didn’t pull the trigger. There’s just so many ifs that are obviously a part of what’s going on in the story.

If Nikita is anti-Division and Percy is pro, where is Michael? Does he want to leave, or bring Nikita back into the fold?
Michael’s caught in the middle.  I don’t think he wants Nikita to come back.  I don’t think he wants her to take down Division or to join Division.  I do think he wants her to be safe because he still has feelings for her. As this unfolds you can see what he has with Nikita and what grows with Alex (Lynsey Fonseca), which is great appreciation for another up and coming recruit, a possible replacement of a Nikita.  He gets protective of her.  We could see him go to [the other] side at some point, but it obviously can’t happen yet.

Has Michael figured out the connection between the new recruit Alex and Nikita?
Maybe. I love that you said that.  That’s just something I played on my own.  What I liked about the pilot is there seemed to be a lot of different ways of taking certain scenes.  Actually, it’s like that in every episode of the series so far.  But I played it that way to mess with the audience’s head.

Is Nikita going to touch on real events or be an allegory for the war on terrorism?
With our group of writers, this is about as real as this type of show can be. We want as much realism as possible, with real fights.  If there’s something in front of you, like ‘Bourne Identity’ stuff.  You hit them in the head with the phone.  You use those kind of things so people can identify with it a little more.  We are going to use issues that are surfacing around the world. I don’t know if its huge social commentary, but I think we’ll have hints of it.

How much of the show takes place in Division and how much is the characters going on missions?
It’s 50/50 as it should be. It’s going to be a lot in Division because there are the recruits and the training and the characters of Alex and Tom and Jade and their storylines. There are the missions that are always happening, that Percy might be headlining or that Michael might be headlining, that Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) is usually a part of.  And then there’s always the Nikitia storyline that’s outside of Division.

What has been your favorite scene so far?
Episode three there’s a pretty cool fight between Michael and Nikita. It was very well written.  It ends in a sense — Michael was Nikita’s teacher so he’s got to be better than her if not on par in this fight.  They did it in such a way that it was very impressive.  The way Nikita escapes doesn’t demean any one of their abilities and doesn’t prove that anyone lost the fight.

Is there a chance that Michael will find himself drawn to Alex romantically, as well as to Nikita?
They could do that. If that ever happens that will be something that the fans will have to comment on, but there’s potential.  He does care about her.  He doesn’t love her or anything like that.  He is looking out for her because he sees something that is eerily reminiscent of Nikita. Maybe it’s selfish why he’s looking out for her.  Maybe it’s genuine.  We don’t know.

Why can’t Michael and Nikita forget about each other?
I think it’s a little easier for Nikita because we know her background.  We don’t necessarily know Michael’s yet.  But I think for Nikita, her upbringing and being a drug addict and becoming a recruit, she’s never really had someone that she’s ever loved.  What came out of Michael training Nikita was a sense of respect and a sense of camaraderie and friendship that turned into a genuine sense of love. But as she got better she needed to do more missions.  She was put in a situation where she could have a normal life and could be set up with a civilian and she found another kind of love with Daniel.  There was a sense of normalcy that I don’t think she ever had.  The true love story is what happened between Michael and Nikita.  Hopefully as the years go by we can delve into that a lot more.